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Leukemia

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Leukemia: Introduction & Pictures
Leukemia: 4 Types & Stages
Leukemia: Causes & Risk Factors
Leukemia: Signs & Symptoms
Leukemia: Medical Tests & Diagnosis
Leukemia: Treatment Options
Cancer Search Engine

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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, also called is a blood and bone marrow disease caused by an increased number of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells). When this occurs, the increased number of CLL cells may hinder other cells, become unable to fight against infections like lymphocyte cells are supposed to do.

According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 15,000 people were diagnosed with CLL in 2010 and an estimated 4,400 died from it that year. CLL is more common in older men. The median age of diagnosis is 72. Eighty-nine percent of all CLL cases occur in men 55 years-old and higher. The 5 year survival rate is 78.4 percent and the median age of death from CLL is 79.

Normally, the body produces three types of blood cells, called mature blood cells.

  1. Red blood cells, which carry the oxygen to all the body tissues.

  2. White blood cells, which fight against infections.

  3. Platelets, which control the bleeding by forming blood clots.

Mature blood cells develop from immature bone marrow cells called stem cells. When chronic lymphocytic leukemia occurs, too many stem cells develop into a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes. This phenomenon is caused by a genetic mutation in the lymphocyte's DNA. However, this genetic mutation is not present at birth, and it can develop at any time during the life span.

Normally, lymphocytes help the body to fight against infections by producing antibodies. Once the mutation occurs, the lymphocytes do not mature correctly, grow uncontrollablly, and in time, lose their function.

Also, a high concentration of lymphocytes can negatively influence the red blood cells and platelets by reducing their number. This causes anemia, bleeding and bruising, three of the most common symptoms of leukemia.

 

Subtypes of CLL:

Since there are 3 types of lymphocyte cells, NK, B, and T, chronic lymphocyte leukemia is often subtyped by which type of lymphocyte cell is affected.

  • B cell CLL (the most common subtype of CLL occuring in 95 percent of all cases.
  • T cell CLL
  • NK cell CLL

There is also Hairy Cell Leukemia, which is a subtype of CLL.

Occurrence: Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is the second most common type of leukemia in adults, (usually older men) and rarely occurs in children. It develops slowly over the years and many patients live a normal life for many years. The survival rate can vary between 1 to 20 years, depending on the stage when the disease is diagnosed and the growth rate of the leukemia cells.

The main risk factors include:

  • Age: CLL usually occurs in adults over the age of 50.
  • Gender: CLL is more common among men.
  • Race: CLL is more common among Caucasians.
  • Family history: CLL is more common among adults that have a family history of chronic lymphocytic leukemia or cancer of the lymph system, or have Russian Jews or Eastern Europe Jews relatives.

Symptoms: Chronic lymphocytic leukemia progresses slowly and can be asymptomatic in its early stages. In most cases, this type of leukemia is discovered during a routine medical check-up. Even when symptoms occur, initially they are mild and progress slowly. Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Feeling tired
  • Breathing difficulties (shortness of breath during physical activities)
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms, stomach, or groin area
  • Fever and increased night sweats
  • Vulnerability to infections
  • Weight loss
  • Discomfort below the ribs (pain or fullness sensations)
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained bruising and bleeding

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia undergoes 5 stages

Stage 0: This stage is characterized by an increased number of lymphocytes in the blood, but no symptoms are present.

Stage I: In this stage, the are too many lymphocytes (white blood cells) in the blood, the number of red blood cells and platelets is still normal, and some of the first symptoms occur - the lymph nodes are larger than normal.

Stage II: In this stage, the number of lymphocytes is higher and the symptoms increase - both the lymph nodes and liver or spleen become swollen.

Stage III: In this stage, the number of lymphocytes is higher while the number of red blood cell is lower than normal causing anemia, and the lymph nodes, liver, or the spleen may swell.

Stage IV: In this stage, the number of lymphocytes is higher, while the number of platelets and red blood cells is a lot lower than normal, and the lymph nodes, liver, or spleen may be larger than normal.

Learn more about Treatment Options for CLL

See Also:
Leukemia: Introduction & Pictures
Leukemia: 4 Types & Stages
Leukemia: Causes & Risk Factors
Leukemia: Signs & Symptoms
Leukemia: Medical Tests & Diagnosis
Leukemia: Treatment Options
Cancer Search Engine

Related: (opening in new windows)

Article by Alina Morrow, MS
Medical Writer
OmniMedicalSearch.com

   

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Page Last Modified:
12/01/2010